I Was Young….

Tonight we are young….

Every now and then I have a visceral reaction to a song, book, or movie that bypasses my rational thinking centers and goes directly to the core of my being. Often it is music that produces a reaction which has tears streaming down my face. At such times I am thankful for a dark theater, sunglasses, or for being alone. I used to be ashamed of these reactions,  falsely attributing them to not being ‘normal’, a condition of being that I now consider vastly overrated and ill-defined.

When these situations occur I am not happy unless I have time to explore whatever it was that penetrated all of my defenses and renewed a sense of vulnerability to life that I am not always comfortable with; I ponder, and worry at them in a way that reminds me of my dogs with their bones. The most recent song that has affected me in such a way is “We Are Young” that I heard in a choral arrangement the night before last.

I am not elderly, but I am not young. The song’s verses include lines or ideas that would not quite fit in my classroom or my ministry training. After downloading the song and listening to it numerous times I, perhaps, have some inkling of why the song has such a powerful impact on me.

At first I thought it was because I did not have the extended youth that today’s young people seem to have. High school was not a particularly easy time for me. My family life had more lows than highs. I graduated from college at 22, and I was a father and Marine Corps pilot at 24, a combat veteran at 26, and I started a new career with very low pay by the time I was 28. At first blush, there was not an abundance of ‘youth’ in my personal timeline. I carried burdens I would not ask others to carry from the time I was eleven or twelve, and only recently have I laid some of them down.

Cuz I found someone to carry me home….

However, trying not to host a pity party for myself, or  be too maudlin about my own past, I went a little deeper.

There was the Chinese fire drill at the drive-in when Donna Brown slammed my car door with a speaker on it. The resulting crack in the window lasted as long as the car and always served as an honorable scar and reminder of an innocent good time.

I remember driving through the park at the edge of Lake Helen without benefit of headlights, or roads for that matter. I held the unofficial record for the fastest drive from North Platte to Gothenburg  on Hwy 30 without the aid of headlights; a full moon helps. It’s probably not a good thing that I have several good memories involving cars and incidents best not taught in driver’s ed classes.

I distinctly remember the feeling of cold steel in my hands as I hid on top of a gasoline station tower while the police 70 feet below tried to figure out who had hung a dummy of a local teacher from said tower. And throwing the dummy in the river. And the excitement when the same police thought the  dummy was a victim of a homicide. An unknowing friend reported seeing a body in the Platte when she arrived at work.

So let’s set the world on fire….

Maybe youth left my life during the memorial service when my first friend died in a helicopter crash. Or perhaps when I first heard that a second friend had died while flying an aircraft I had flown the day before. It could have been while I was standing by the coffins of three friends killed in action before we sent them home. Or while I read the letters of a young Marine killed in an accident. I had to read them all to make sure nothing was sent to a mother which would deepen her grief. I don’t remember feeling young when I left the Corps although I was only 28.

We can burn brighter than the sun….

I heard the song  for the first time almost 27 years later. I knew I had a meeting scheduled for the next morning that would prove difficult, it was comic, tragic, and demeaning. The most memorable accusation tossed out was that I was insensitive, and I did not know about the feelings of young people.  This from someone who was 10 years old when I began to teach.

Carry me home tonight, just carry me home tonight….

I think the impressions of my ignorance on the part of my accuser are false. I think I well-understand the sensitivities of young people. Most of all I remember, and then I grieve. The song makes me grieve the exuberance of the young people singing who are celebrating a blissful night of being young, and the mistaken belief that they have the strength to come through all challenges unscathed.

If you feel like falling down, I will carry you home….


About Edward

Dishwasher, bartender, cook, house painter, movie usher, Marine helicopter pilot, teacher, administrator, teacher again, retired teacher, Secular Franciscan, Lay Ecclesial Minister- it's been an interesting ride.
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